The long-anticipated House Select Committee public hearings into the disturbing events at the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, start Thursday night. In prime time, the bipartisan committee will lay out to the American people through interviews, testimony and visuals how insurrectionists — sparked by then-President Donald Trump, some of his aides and many of his followers — tried to stop the certification of a fairly-held election.
It might be the most disconcerting and important hearing since the Watergate scandal that brought down another president for serious wrongdoing some 50 years ago.
ABC plans to cover the hearing live Thursday night. CBS, NBC and PBS, too. All four are bringing in their main anchors to oversee the coverage. CNN, naturally, will carry the hearing live. As will MSNBC.
But what about Fox News? Well, not exactly.
Yes, there will be live and full coverage hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum on Fox Business Network. And Shannon Bream will have two hours of live reaction starting at 11 p.m. Eastern on Fox News. The hearing also will be on without interruption on Fox News Digital, Fox News Audio and Fox Nation. And Fox said that the coverage will be offered to Fox broadcast affiliates across any of their platforms.
But what about Fox News itself? You know, the most-watched cable news network, particularly in prime time?
Nope, not unless something happens that warrants Fox News cutting into regularly scheduled programming. Otherwise, if you tune into Fox News on Thursday night, you’ll get the same prime time lineup as always: Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
It’s disappointing, but not surprising. After all, Carlson is on record as calling the committee “grotesque.”
He said on air, “Well, Liz Cheney and Nancy Pelosi have hired the producer from ‘Good Morning America,’ not to do a prostate health update, but to put together a prime-time show trial this Thursday.”
Carlson admits there are a lot of questions to be answered about Jan. 6. He said, “A lot. We’ll tell them to you at 8 p.m. on Thursday.”
That’s a tease to his show, not the hearings.
But shouldn’t a network that has “news” in its title cover this newsworthy event?
Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who is on the committee, tweeted, “If you work for @FoxNews and want to maintain your credibility as a journalist, now is a good time to speak out, or quit. Enough is enough.”
But let’s be honest. Fox News is making a business decision here — and a decision geared toward its viewers, not toward what’s the journalistically responsible thing to do. Those who regularly watch Fox News — especially the prime-time lineup of Carlson, Hannity and Ingram — likely have little to no interest in the actual hearings. They would rather hear the three pundits slam the proceedings while defending Trump. Or talk about something else completely.
And, Fox News figures that if anyone really wants to watch the hearings, they have plenty of options to do so. But, Nicole Hemmer, a historian at Columbia University and the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” told The New York Times’ John Koblin and Jeremy W. Peters, “To air it on their tiny sister network they are reinforcing that argument — this isn’t important.”
As Koblin and Peters noted, “Last month, Fox News averaged 1.5 million viewers at any given time during the day; Fox Business averaged 136,000 viewers.”
It just makes Fox News look bad. Not that we need to be reminded, but does this prove that Fox News isn’t as much of a news network as it is a megaphone for the Republican Party and Trump?
In his analysis for The Washington Post, Philip Bump looked at data that showed how Fox News doesn’t discuss Jan. 6 nearly as much as CNN and MSNBC. It also doesn’t discuss groups such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers — extremist groups heavily involved in Jan. 6 — as much as the other cable news leaders. And Bump has other data as well, including how coverage of text messages that Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows exchanged with Hannity, Ingraham and their Fox News colleague Brian Kilmeade played out over the news.
Bump writes, “This all speaks to a pattern: Fox News has not been interested in covering new developments in the investigation into the Capitol riot. For that reason alone it’s not surprising that the network won’t be carrying the hearings.”
Bump added, “In fairness, there is one more reason that Fox News might not want to air the Jan. 6 committee hearings. After all, imagine if one of the speakers casually mention Meadows’s text messages or the role of the Oath Keepers. Those Fox News viewers would be left trying to play catch up, wondering what was meant by these bizarre references to things that their preferred network had mentioned only occasionally or only in passing.”
This is in no way a defense of Fox News, but did you really expect anything different?
Sure, the network will say that their other platforms are providing full coverage of the hearings. But while the ugly details of the hearings are going on there, what do you want to bet that a defense, or a whitewash, or a complete blindness of Jan. 6 will be going on over at Fox News?
Swisher’s big move
If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter, you know I’m a huge fan of The New York Times’ Kara Swisher and, in particular, her podcast “Sway.”
Sadly, I must report that “Sway” is going away. Swisher is not, although she’s leaving the Times for her old stomping grounds — Vox Media. She will launch a new interview podcast that will be a companion to “Pivot,” a tech and business program she co-hosted for four years with New York University professor Scott Galloway. Her new pod is expected to launch in the fall.
Swisher told Bloomberg’s Ashley Carman, “I’m 60 years old this year, I’ve made a lot of stuff for a lot of people. I want to do what I want to do. I want to make whatever I want to make, and I think that’s a great thing.”
Swisher is going back to a place she’s very familiar with. She and business partner Walt Mossberg sold their tech website and business, Recode, to Vox Media in 2015. She became a Times opinion contributor in 2018 and then joined the Times as a podcaster in 2020. She still continued to host “Pivot” while with the Times.
But now she returns to Vox.
In a statement, the Times said they were “incredibly proud” of working with Swisher and that “Sway” had a “fantastic run.”
In a note to staff, opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury and director of audio Paula Szuchman wrote, “There are few more indomitable journalists covering the tech industry than Kara Swisher. For the past four years, on behalf of Times Opinion, she has grilled tech titans, regulators and politicians, covered the biggest stories, and ensured accountability in a key part of modern life where there is too often very little. Her experience, intellect and fearlessness is unmatched.”
The Times announced the last episode of “Sway” will drop in late July.
Headline (and story) of the day
Here’s, easily, the best headline I’ve read in a while. It’s in The Washington Post: “During Watergate, John Mitchell Left His Wife. She Called Bob Woodward.” The exclusive story, written by Manuel Roig-Franzia, is really good, too.
Speaking extensively about it for the first time, Woodward — half of the famed Washington Post team of Woodward and Carl Bernstein that was all over the Watergate story 50 years ago — recalled how Martha Mitchell, wife of Richard Nixon’s former attorney general John Mitchell, invited the Post reporters to go through John Mitchell’s office in the Mitchells’ New York City apartment.
She reportedly told them, “Have at it, boys. Please nail him. I hope you get the bastard.”
Roig-Franzia wrote, “They were there for hours. Mitchell ordered Chinese food. Finally, they’d accumulated a stack of potentially useful papers. For all these years, Woodward, who is an Olympic-level hoarder of his reporting finds, has kept a file of the documents he gathered that afternoon and evening.”
Woodward shared those documents with Roig-Franzia, who then presents a look into them in his story. Fascinating stuff.
On Monday, Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel was suspended without pay after he retweeted a sexist and homophobic tweet from a YouTube personality. Weigel’s retweet was first called out by Post reporter Felicia Sonmez. Then, Sonmez was criticized by another Post reporter, Jose A. Del Real, who accused Sonmez on Twitter of “repeated and targeted public harassment of a colleague” and suggested she was “rallying the internet to attack (Weigel) for a mistake.”
Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee sent out a memo on Sunday (a day before suspending Weigel) telling staff to “treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online.”
Buzbee sent out another lengthy memo to staff on Tuesday. In it, she writes, “We do not tolerate colleagues attacking colleagues either face to face or online. Respect for others is critical to any civil society, including our newsroom. The newsroom social media policy points specifically to the need for collegiality.”
Buzbee wrote the Post plans to update its social media policy. She also writes, “We respect and do not wish to inhibit any employee’s right to raise legitimate workplace issues. We know it takes bravery to call out problems. And we pledge to openly and honestly address problems brought to us.”
- CNN’s Kate Sullivan with “Matthew McConaughey tells the story of those killed in Uvalde in emotional plea for action on guns.”
- The Guardian’s Tom Phillips with “Fears for safety of British journalist missing in Brazilian Amazon.”
- The latest from The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple: “How Fox News has dominated the White House briefing.”
- TV Newser’s A.J. Katz with “Here’s How Yamiche Alcindor Keeps Viewers Engaged with Washington Week.”
- My Poynter colleague Angela Fu with “Media unions seek to protect members’ access to abortion through health care plans.”
- CNN’s Sara Ashley O’Brien with “How a fake juror in Depp vs. Heard trial went viral on TikTok.”
- In a book review for The New York Times, David Sheff writes about Keri Blakinger’s memoir “Corrections in Ink” in “A Harrowing Journey From Cornell to Addiction to Prison.”
- The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow with “Anger and heartbreak on Bus No. 15.”
- Good reporting here from New York Times sportswriter Jenny Vrentas: “How the Texans and a Spa Enabled Deshaun Watson’s Troubling Behavior.”
- Another list that’s sure to generate lots of talk: Rolling Stone’s “The 200 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
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